If you’re interested in the writing workshop I’m leading, click here.
Aspiring Chicagoland writers, there are stil three spots left in the spring workshop offered by acclaimed author Gint Aras. the workshop will take place in a lovely apartment above The Buzz Cafe in Oak Park, IL, right in the heart of the Arts District.
To register, e-mail Gint here. He’ll send you his PayPal information and verify your e-mail address.
Prose Writing Workshop, with Gint Aras
Friday nights, 6:30-8:30, from April 7-May 26
Upstairs Apartment and Lounge, Buzz Cafe
905 S. Lombard, Oak Park, IL
Open to writers of any level, aged 16 or older
Registration ends after 8 students have registered
Gint Aras is the critically acclaimed author of The Fugue (Tortoise, 2016), finalist for the 2016 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award. The novel was called “magisterial” by the Chicago Tribune and a “masterpiece of literary fiction” by Centered on Books. His other prose and translations have appeared in the St. Petersburg Review, Quarterly West, Antique Children, Criminal Class Review, Curbside Splendor, ReImagine, STIR Journal, Heavy Feather Review, and he was a contributing and section editor at The Good Men Project. Aras earned an MFA from Columbia University in the City of New York, and a BA in English and American Literature from the University of Illinois.
What sort of things do writers do to keep at it, to get it done, to meet the deadline, to let the energy out? Today I’m wondering about the fine line between dedication and masochism.
It’s a degree below zero (fahrenheit) in Chicago today. My basement, where I normally work, is about 57 degrees, with a sharp cold radiating through the floor. My wife recently had the idea to put in all sorts of rugs, and they really do help. So does the electric blanket—her idea, also—I’ve draped over myself.
Of course, it’s warmer upstairs. I could sit by the window and look over the winter landscape and read a book. Or I could play with my son, build an even faster Hot Wheels track. Instead, I’m down here composing an essay about racism and cultural identity.
That’s what writing is, at least for me. It’s not a cup of coffee by a window overlooking a pastoral landscape. Maybe it is that for someone, but I never felt that way even when I could see the Danube outside my room. I suppose Madison County is not the only one with bridges, but I’ve never written in any similar county, or composed anything about those kinds of bridges, literal and metaphorical.
Today, an electric blanket and a half dozen candles meant to raise the temperature by up to a full degree, the one that separates dedication from masochism. Call it what you want. Let’s get to work.
Am I excited about this summer’s SLS? I can’t really express the anticipation. However, I tried in this article.
As a side note, I’m excited to find myself in a new environment, at least for a short time, away from the community college. This week’s True Community explains why: ...the community college can become a lens, a point of perception, and if I sit too long inside it, I face the isolating illusion that the entire world has become disinterested in itself.
Hope you’ll check it out. SLS participants, see you there!
Photo from SLS Facebook Page.
I’ve been asked by fellow author, Nancy Agabian, to participate in a Blog Hop in order to introduce new authors to new readers. If you’ve come here from the link posted on Nancy’s blog, welcome! If you’re a regular Liquid Inker or came upon my blog by chance, this is an opportunity for you to get know something about the memoir I am working on and to check out some writers who might be new to you by following the links at the end of the post. They are all fine authors whose work I would highly recommend. Again, special thanks to Nancy Agabian for asking me to participate.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Great Read
Q: What is the working title of your book?
A: Ghetto Blueblood
Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: I published an essay titled Baptism Party in Antique Children’s Revolt of the Underdog issue. Another contributor, Rene Vasicek, told me I should expand it to a memoir. Then another writer, Daiva Markelis, told me to expand it into a memoir. Later on, a fan of my writing, someone who’s been following my work since before I published my first story, told me I should expand it into a memoir. I finally took the advice seriously.
Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: Non-fiction (memoir)
Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
A: I myself should be played by a rock star, preferably a resurrected one, maybe Kurt Cobain. My brother should be played by a young Arunas Storpirštis. The rest of the cast should be made up of Russian, Lithuanian, English and American actors currently in drama school.
Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: PTSD isn’t as bad as the trauma that caused it, but you won’t know it without getting PTSD.
Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: I have no way of predicting this. Just the other day I ordered a pizza and it came to my neighbor’s house. In the meantime, a young girl came to my door asking if I’d like to subscribe to some strange local newspaper advertising pizza delivery.
Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: I have yet to complete the first draft. I actually haven’t finished a draft of the first chapter. Ha!
Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: It’s a mix of influences, so I’ll use them to answer this question, even though comparing myself to these masters is idiotic. I can’t believe I’m doing this: Paul Auster’s Hand to Mouth, A Chronicle of Early Failure. Nabokov’s Speak, Memory. Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (He claims it’s a novel, but that’s BS). Capote’s Music for Chameleons.
Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: I was diagnosed with PTSD a short time after my daughter was born. Anyone who has the condition (or anyone close to someone with the condition) will tell you how dramatically everything changes; life becomes a 3D (truly terrifying) horror film, and one cannot tell between dream states and their alternative. I don’t want to get into the vile symptoms here. Writing through it, even gibberish, helped. I also started treating it naturally, doing yoga and practicing Zen. A completed memoir will crown my victory over PTSD, as there was a time when I had lost any ability to read and could barely write anything beyond crude e-mail messages.
Q: What else about your book might piqué the reader’s interest?
A: I have a way of telling stories about the lower-middle class and the American underclass that’s extremely rare, primarily because my perspective is international, but also because I don’t pity the poor or the destitute. I don’t pity any human experience. As a student of zen, I try to reveal what’s before me, just as it is.
Here are the writers whose work you can check out next:
I was very pleased to read this article from the BBC news, the headline: Creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness’. It suggests rethinking how we view illnesses, as some traits of mental illness are desirable. I actually believe that sometimes they’re flat-out enviable. I have in mind how Michael Burry’s Asperger’s syndrome left him obsessed with research and analysis of market data that, combined with some courage and guts, left him enormously wealthy.
I am not comparing myself to Burry, except to say that I have traits people consider problematic. When people find out I have PTSD, and when they hear stories about my childhood, they make striking conclusions. The most common are “You’re too sensitive,” and “You’re too intelligent” followed by “You think too much.” When I face those comments, I might actually surge with rage on the inside. But I’ll claim to agree: “You’re probably right.”
Am I thinking too much? Am I guilty of hyperbole when I put those dots together and come up with this: “If you were dumber, less insightful and a bigger asshole, you woudn’t be suffering from an anxiety disorder.”
Is there any other conclusion? Could this realization be why writers, if the article is correct, are twice as likely to commit suicide?